It is a problem that most air travellers face – how and where to buy those cheap airfares online and what are the benefits in savings and drawbacks compared to buying the cheap airfares from the travel agent down the road.
If you travel by air, you would already know that airfares cost typically forms the dominant chunk of your travel bill be it leisure or holiday. And the savings can add up a lot i.e. if you know where to really get those cheap airfares.
But in the current world where there are a proliferation of travel agencies, sites and even airlines themselves advertising all sort of cheap airfares, if you buy those airfares online yourself and cut out the middlemen, the travel agents, then things could get confusing fast.
Without some guidance and understanding of how one of the world’s largest industry works (air travel), travellers are likely to find themselves short-changed for the more expensive airfares tickets or buying something they may not need that had already been built into the airfare prices.
Of course, every traveller would love it if they could just get those cheapest airfares or at least bragged to their relatives or friends how they managed to get those cheap airfares at 30%-50% cheaper than the next guy sitting on the plane. Is this possible actually?
Yes, you can do all these online yourselves but here are 7 important tips you have to know before buying those airfares online or searching for the best cheap airfare deal:
1) Know your priority first.
If cheap airfare price is everything and you can settle for some minor restrictions, then you are always better to go for the cheap consolidators’ airfares rather than that of the airlines’ own published airfares themselves.
On domestic US routes, some of the big online air travel consolidators you could check out are Onetravel.com, Hotwire.com, Priceline.com, etc.
On the other hand, if airfare price is not your top consideration (for example, you have this worry about foreign airlines reliability or security), you should then monitor your favourite airline’s own cheap airfare sales, which they have periodically every two to three months.
Or try to look for a complete package tour (which is likely cheaper in airfare ticket prices than just buying the airfare ticket alone) from the big published Internet travel agencies like Travelocity.com, Expedia.com, etc.
2) Do not waste time checking sites which have the same sources of cheap airfares.
For example, these sites may rely on the same computerised reservation system (CSR) that gives you options from the same set of published air fares.
There are less than 8 major CSR systems in the industry (you can check the sites on which CSRs are they using or ask their customer help desk) and it is better if you get your options from most or all of them to get the cheapest airfares.
Note that some sites may just be a portal or gateways to other main sites so it will be a waste of time to check your options on these sites together for your cheap airfare search.
3) Get the full itineraries available
Remember that airfare pricing are determined by a variety of factors such as dates, seating, routes (direct flights, stopovers or connecting flights for example), and their rules for cancellations, refunds or changes to the tickets.
You may find that the cheapest airfare tickets tend to have a lot of restrictions that may not be suitable to you.
For example, if you are on a rushed vacation where there are too many stopovers or connecting flights, these are likely to eat into your vacation time. Always check the fine prints before paying for any cheap airfares as there are tradeoffs to be made.
4) Always book and pay quickly on a good deal
Do not waste your time searching endlessly for the best cheap airfares deal. They don’t likely exist as airfare pricing are determined by many things as noted from above and the cheapest airfare tickets may not be suitable after all for your requirements.
If you do see a good cheap airfare deal, book and pay for it quickly.
Airlines typically may offer a few crash-down cheap airfare deals to pull in demands on limited seat availability and what you see in the advertisements may not be available to you in a few days or even the next hour unless you book and pay for those cheap seats quickly.
Keeping an eye open and putting yourself on the e-mail list of notifications by the airlines or travel agencies are a good way of spotting these cheap airfare deals.
5) There is no magical place or site to look, just the best comparison
Despite what some may claim, there are no one airline or travel site that will offer you the best available cheap airfare deal as it all depends on your requirements and travel preferences.
There are actually thousands of permutations of flights routes, prices, type of flights, seatings, timing, etc for any possible trip especially for those long-distance, lengthy, round-the-world (RTW)trips.
Hence, it is always wise to do comparison between airlines or travel agencies at all time for their cheap airfare claims or offers. Of course, just do not be a cheap airfare fanatic until you miss the forest for the trees.
6) Never assume anything on cheap airfares
The best advice is never to assume anything on the airfares that you have to pay as what is cheap could be obscured by hidden charges.
Make sure that the net cheap airfare price you have to pay have factored in other charges like airport taxes, surcharges, agencies charges, etc. before you pay or make a like-for-like comparison with other sites.
Also never assume that online airfare prices will be cheaper. Always check offline for example with the consolidators’ cheap airfares.
Also never assume that those cheapest airfares flight search function on any travel websites will actually get you the ever lowest discount fares.
They won’t as search robots are actually not exactly built that way and are quite rigid. For example, they may not disclose another cheaper airfare alternative say if you vary your destination or stopover a little bit, which brings us to a last point.
7) You need to invest some patience and efforts
Ultimately, to find those bargain cheap airfares, you still need to invest the time and effort to find them.
There are always different sites, tactics and sources to find the best possible cheap airfares (note not necessarily the cheapest) for any trips.
If you are unable to do so yourself, you could still find a trustworthy and reliable travel agent to search out those cheap airfare options for you for a small fee.
Just be sure that you ask all the relevant questions in this case as some agents may not likely be as helpful as you want them to be, to search for the lowest airfares or best itineraries for you.
In the end still, nothing beats a little time and effort to plan your trip yourself and get the best out of it at the least cost.